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Do you like the arts? (Spoiler alert: if you are browsing this website, you probably do). Do you believe that more people should have access to art and have the chance appreciate original artwork from their local community? Good. Now, do you like bingo?

If you are wondering what one has to do with the other, then you must have missed last week’s Art Bingo event with the Art Connection – a nonprofit program established in 1995 that connects artists and donors to community service organizations through the placement of original artwork. The charity finds homes for art pieces (donated by local artists and collectors) in healing environments, where the artworks serve to enliven the spaces and become points of inspiration that allow their recipients opportunity for reflection, comfort, and hope.

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Recent placements include BEST Corporation, Elder Service Plan of Harbor Health, South End Community Health Center, and Victory Programs. So far the Art Connection has placed over 7,500 original artworks (generously donated by over 450 artists and collectors) in over 400 agencies. The declared and noble mission of Art Connection is to promote access to art in under-served communities – and what better way to achieve that than by coming together to play?

Why bingo, you say? Well, simply because it continues to be an immensely popular game of chance, easy to understand and familiar to everybody – it has even conquered the Internet, which has seen several gaming websites hosting online bingo games. Usually, such websites involve extra features that attract players, such as multi-room bingo –where players have the option to launch and play in more than one bingo room at a time– or bingo chat (complete with emoticons) to communicate with fellow players and make the game more social.

Bingo games remain very popular with charities in particular. The rules are simple: the game host draws numbers at random and each player takes care to match them on 5×5 cards, pre-printed in different arrangements. When a row is formed by the random numbers, the player calls out “Bingo!” to signal their win and claim the designated prize. In the case of Art Bingo the prize is one of twelve original artworks by local artists – so that every winner can take a piece home and become a proud art collector.

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The event formed part of ArtWeek Boston, a biannual creative festival first established in Boston that features a wide range of events and interactive experiences throughout all of Eastern Massachusetts. This was the 6th annual Art Bingo organized and, as has become a tradition each year, one of the dozen games played showcases and promotes the work of a talented emerging visual artist from local Boston Arts Academy. Art Bingo also features premium silent auctions, with prizes this year ranging from ticket packages to Boston’s best theaters to gift certificates to dine in award winning local restaurants.

This year, guests crowded the lobby of the historic Ben Franklin Institute to engage with artwork and mingle with artists before attending the fast-paced games and auctions. The event saw Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley return as a bingo caller while VERY Gallery’s John Guthrie (also known for his work with Kate Werble Gallery in NYC, Tinku Gallery in Toronto, and Spazio Natta in Italy) has acted as the juror, choosing this year’s art pieces. Selected artists included renowned painter and art professor Marilyn Levin and photographer Timothy Wilson, well-known for his unique style that blurs boundaries between painting and photography, focusing more on shape and atmosphere than content or locale.

A highlight of the event was honoring Ellen Rich with the Annual Art BINGO Artist Award – another beloved tradition. Ellen was an original signer on the Art Connection’s bylaws, volunteered in numerous capacities with the program and even donated her own original works throughout the years. Some of her artworks have been placed with nonprofits such as New England Center for Homeless Veterans, Pine Street Inn, St. Francis House, Centro Latino de Chelsea, Inc., and East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. Her collage “Marsden” (acrylic on paper) was selected as one of this year’s twelve works up for grabs.

Having fun for a good cause – one that includes building bridges between artists, those deprived of access to art, and the community as a whole. More charities should draw from this example of how to develop a power combination that truly boosts local engagement with the arts.

By: Beautiful/Decay